3 takeaways from the Feb. 13 Wrenshall School Board meeting

The Wrenshall School Board heard a letter from the Gay Straight Alliance about anti-bullying training, discussed a new possible new policy on library materials and results from the superintendent survey.

Wrenshall School
Wrenshall School (File / Pine Journal)

WRENSHALL — The Wrenshall School Board met for its regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 13 and heard a request from students in the Gay Straight Alliance for an anti-bullying classroom training. They also discussed a new policy that's up for consideration regarding access to library materials and some takeaways from the superintendent survey recently conducted.

Students pen letter for more anti-bullying training

Ted Conover, a Wrenshall English teacher and co-leader of the student Gay Straight Alliance, presented the board with information about the club and its formation on campus. The club began online in 2020 after students requested it for three years. The club, Conover explained, is meant to be a "safe space where students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity can come and meet."

Conover presented to the board alone, which he noted was an effort to keep students involved in the club safe.

"A lot of times when a club or student council or sports team is being discussed at a board meeting, students from that group would come or be invited. I did not feel comfortable inviting students from the GSA to come to this meeting because I would feel it would put them in an unsafe position," Conover said. "I'd like to invite them, like they were members of the volleyball team, but you know, volleyball players don't get death threats for being on the volleyball team."

Previously the club had invited a representative from Outfront Minnesota to conduct in-class training to prevent homophobic bullying and normalize LGBTQIA discussions in the school. The night before the training was set to occur, it was canceled. The letter from the students claimed "two members of the board contacted Superintendent (Kimberly) Belcastro to cancel the training."


Board member Misty Bergman stated the training was canceled because parents and the board should have been given prior notice of the training.

"I was one of those school board members that made a comment, because I'm like, 'What is going on? And does the community know, do these families know, do the parents know?'" Bergman said. "To be fair, it's a subject that not everybody in this community is comfortable with. And we have to be forthcoming, we can't be sneaky."

Belcastro said that an anti-bullying training will be set again for the student body and that parents and guardians will be informed in advance.

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Breaking down policy 606.2

The school board is currently undergoing a large policy overhaul and approved minor changes to several policies Monday evening. One policy that was discussed but not voted on was policy 606.2. According to board member Mary Carlson, this policy would allow parents to restrict access to books in the school library to their students.

"If there's a book in this library that a parent is not comfortable with their student having access to it, there's a slip that allows a parent to fill out that form and it goes on file here at the library," Carlson said. "Then that student would not have access to those books that the parent has identified."

The policy would also create a process for reviewing books that parents take issue with, including the creation of a reconsideration committee. The makeup of the committee would include a school board member, a member of the teaching staff, a library media representative, three members of the school community and two student representatives (if appropriate). The committee would meet within 10 days after the complaint is received. Committee members would be asked to read the material in its entirety, read professional reviews, discuss the material in context and with the questioner, and prepare a report with its findings. If found unsuitable, the material would be removed within 10 working days.

The full policy can be read on the district's website.


District Policies

Superintendent survey results

According to Bergman, the survey sent out regarding the district superintendent replacement had 164 responses. Those results are expected to be posted to the district's website soon.

According to Bergman, findings from the survey came back as close to 50/50 regarding the district's current model of a part-time superintendent and full-time principal.

The overall majority of survey respondents also came back not in favor of sharing a superintendent with Carlton, according to Belcastro.

"Now you've got a synopsis and can see the common themes that come up and you have the data to support your solutions," Belcastro said.

Bergman said the board should see the job posting for a new superintendent by the March 1 meeting.

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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